Japanese judicial authorities Tuesday hanged three death row inmates in the first executions since Dec. 26, 2019 -when a Chinese citizen convicted in the 2003 killing of a family of four in Fukuoka was put to death-, and the first under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said he gave the order to resume capital punishment.
Yasutaka Fujishiro, 65, who was convicted of killing seven of his relatives in 2004. Tomoaki Takanezawa, 54, and Mitsunori Onogawa, 44, who were convicted of killing two employees at separate pachinko parlors in 2003.
Japan had executed three people in 2019 and 15 in 2018, which included 13 from the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which was behind the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
Fujushiro was sentenced to death in May 2009 and the Supreme Court finalized the decision in 2015, while Takanezwa's sentence was finalized in July 2005 and Onogawa's was settled in June 2009.
Chiara Sangiorgio, death penalty adviser at Amnesty International, condemned the executions as a damning indictment of this government's lack of respect for the right to life with the potential to change course under the new administration. After two years without executions, this feels like a missed opportunity for Japan to take long overdue steps to abolish the cruel practice of the death penalty, Sangiorgio said.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said it would not be appropriate to abolish Japan's death penalty policy, citing the current situation in which heinous crimes continue to occur.
Many Japanese think the death penalty is unavoidable in the case of extremely malicious crimes, Kihara said.
Executions are carried out in high secrecy in Japan. Prisoners are told just hours before that they are to be hanged and their relatives are only notified after the sentences have been carried out. Since 2007, Japan has begun disclosing the names of those executed and some details of their crimes, but information is still limited.
Furukawa said at a news conference the three had committed extremely ghastly crimes and the punishment was appropriate. As justice minister, I authorised their executions after giving extremely careful considerations again and again, Mr Furukawa said. He added that a survey by the Japanese government had shown an overwhelming majority of the public supports executions, Furukawa said. He also defended the short notice given to inmates about to be executed, citing a serious mental impact on them if they learn their fate way in advance.
Two inmates recently filed a lawsuit against the government, saying the system caused psychological distress. They sought compensation over mental suffering from living in uncertainty until the last day of their lives.
Japan now has 107 people on death row at detention centres, instead of regular prisons. The country has maintained the death penalty despite growing international criticism. Japan and the United States are the only two countries in the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations that use capital punishment.